I came across this Self-Portrait the other day in the very messy bottom drawer in the master bathroom. I was looking for a small container of baby powder to fix a squeaky saddle and instead I found this picture.
The drawers in that bathroom are a clutter. Used for dumping all kinds of strange things, those drawers are not a place I would want anything important to wind up. Yet there in the bottom drawer with the scoop for the cat's litter box (YUCK!) was the picture of this child.
Last time I saw this picture it was hanging on the bathroom wall. I always felt a bit odd about this child being exposed in that way but somehow it was important to me she be hidden no longer. With her bubbles and magic carpet, the bathroom seemed to be a place no one would question so that's where she ended up.
But finding her in that bottom drawer with that icky scoop immediately sent a rumble through my system. I retrieved the picture. Gave it a thorough cleaning and then posted it as I was told.
I really had no idea nor inclination to do anymore than scan the painting and put it up on the blog. It was nothing more than a thought that crossed my mind. I tried to put it off and was gently nudged from inside so I posted thinking that would be the end of it. Instead it took on a life of it's own.
Partially that life got fueled by my own thoughts about the expression on this child's face and partly by the comments. Then the memories started to trickle in and I began to remember when I first met this child and pieces of her story. I think those pieces will help you understand her expression more. Keep in mind that even these pieces may be triggering.
Before I tell you about this child, I guess I should first tell you about me. I am a historian. It is my job to know the stories behind the children. Not all the children..........there are too many of them and I wouldn't be able to keep them straight.........but I have my group who talks to me.
I came about during therapy. It was my job to tell the stories of the children who talked to me. I can feel their pain.........but it feels like it's theirs and not mine. I suppose that gives the system some distance from being totally overwhelmed and triggered out of control. These safeguards were necessary so we didn't self-destruct as we were programmed to do.
My sense of this child is that she is a toddler. She is about two years old. She has never been allowed to wear any type of clothing or cover herself in any way. Even though naked is the only way she's ever been, she feels exposed, uncomfortable and dirty. She also feels threatened to the point of near hysteria by the thought of covering up. She knows that to cover her body in any way would cause bad things to happen.
She cannot speak unless spoken to and that must be simple one word answers. No sounds of any kind are allowed to cross her lips or stir in her throat.
Her mind races trying to make sense of her world and she refrains from testing the rules. She studies everything around her trying to make sense of it but does only what she is told. She would never physically explore anything. The only exploring she can do is with her eyes and that must be undetected. Too much curiosity could kill her.
She doesn't know where she came from. She doesn't know where she belongs. She lives in a cage. She spends a lot of her time rocking, holding her knees, silently rocking back and forth for hours and hours on end trying to loose herself in the monotony of the motion, trying to avoid the pain.
She thinks maybe she belongs to the rich old lady that lives in the mansion. She knows that woman is in charge and that she mustn't make the woman mad. She also knows the expression on her face can make the woman furious. She practices turning her face into a blank slate.
Sometimes people come to watch her in the cage. They look at her. They talk about her. Sometimes they take their clothes off and they do strange things but they never, never touch her. They aren't allowed. Only the old woman can touch the child. Once in a while someone the woman directs can punish the child but mostly only the old woman has any kind of physical contact with her.
This child can make no sense of the world she lives in. Other than feeling cold, hungry and alone everything else feels crazy to her and she's not even sure why. She's just too young to understand.
As you can see, I've relayed her story in the present tense. That's how it feels to her. She's never come to the forefront...........probably never will. Just allowing her picture to be painted was enough for her. She's content to hide in the shadows. Her only need is the rocking, as long as that is fulfilled she stays just the way she is.
There are internal pictures of the life of this child. I have not painted them but if I did, it would tell all the details of her story. From those mental pictures I can tell what the plan was for this girl. My adult mind can make sense of those things that she could never figure out. That helps to keep my system free of the tricks used to keep her trapped.
Today, she is not trapped keeping hidden is a choice that she makes. The rest of the system honors that choice and nurtures her as best she will allow. There is always a great sadness that comes with her presence. I doubt that can be relieved without painting those pictures and allowing her feelings to come out. So until the day comes that she decides it is ok to do that, she will remain in the darkness and only show her face as a picture on my bathroom wall.